Those who debate the issue of legalizing certain types of drugs, will often encounter the notion of a
“gateway drug,” something that, by itself seems somewhat benign, but may lead to the use of much
more dangerous substances. Can there be “gateways” to sin?

Rabbi Israel Meir Hakohen (Kagan in Russian), known as the Chofetz Chaim, the title of one of his
greatest works, also penned a lesser-known volume called Ahavat Yisrael, in which he codifies the laws
regarding Ahavat Yisrael (loving a fellow Jew) and the horrible consequences of its opposite. He explains
why the iniquity of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) has more deleterious consequences than other evils.

First, he writes, the act of hating causes one to violate, every second in which that hatred is present in
one’s heart, the Biblical precept of hating a fellow in one’s heart (Leviticus 19:17). This can accrue for
months or even years, where the sins multiply at a rate one cannot even quantify. Second, reasoned the

Chofetz Chaim, Sinat Chinam serves as a gateway to further religious malevolence, such as causing
disputes, evil speech, tale-bearing, deceit, and causing embarrassment, which our sages have
homiletically likened to homicide. The prohibition of taking revenge (Leviticus 19:18), which is the
Biblical prelude to the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow as oneself, implies hatred as well.

Finally, the Talmud suggests that two friends who do not talk to one another for three days because of
anger, are considered to be in violation of the prohibition of hating a fellow. Thus, it is entirely possible
that one small misunderstanding between Jews, a minor infraction, or an insignificant spat, could result
in violating several major religious infractions. The Chofetz Chaim declares: “We must conclude that we
must try very hard to see and fix this bitter iniquity, which is the principal cause of our extended exile. May our good G-d aid us in removing this hatred from our hearts. May no one be jealous of us, nor may
we be jealous of others.”

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